“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8


If you had been a reporter in Jesus’ day and were assigned to “cover” his ministry, what do you think you would write?  Apparently, Jesus had plenty of followers, everyday people who knew life unvarnished—people with financial stresses, illnesses and death, relational challenges.  They were people just like us.  Even the rich folks knew to call on Jesus when they needed help.  You could write about these responses to Jesus.

It seems that the people who had the most trouble with Jesus were those who were the professionals who were insulated by layers of religion and tradition—the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees. They were distressed because he did things like eating while others fasted (Matt. 9:14), repeatedly broke the Sabbath (John 5, Matt. 12…), caused chaos in the Temple*, claimed to be God’s Son (John 6, 10, 14…), forgave sin (Matt. 9, Luke 7), and was generally a trial to them.  You’d get a whole different slant from this group.  So what would you write?

If we allow ourselves to get bogged down in the whys and hows and perceived inconsistencies in the Bible—according to the pros—we will miss the whole picture.  Yes, God is in the details, but in obsessing with the minutiae, we miss the majesty and the genius of what God is DOING.  In “breaking the Sabbath” he demonstrates his lordship OVER the Sabbath; in cleansing the Temple he underscores the holiness and purpose of God’s House; with proclaiming himself like his Father he reveals the character of a God few have ever known; in forgiving sin, he brings hope that our unrighteousness will be covered by his righteousness; and so on.

Rather than looking for inaccuracies or inconsistencies or being thrown off by perceived errors in the text—or even in our own lives when God doesn’t manifest himself as we expect—we can choose to focus on the big picture and look to see what God is DOING.  We can write a story that brings redemption rather than analysis, that sees a God at work loving and healing and saving his people.


* Even the writers of the Gospels don’t agree as to the timing of the cleansing of the Temple.


Sweet Father, thank you for your patience with us when we want to put you into our tiny box of understanding.  Push us to allow you to be God and remind us again that we are not.  Thank you again.  AMEN.


Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”  Genesis 22:2


Can we even begin to imagine the pain that Abraham experienced when God ordered him to take this child and offer him as a burnt offering?  Isaac was the child of promise who had been born to Sarah and Abraham when they were long past the time of parenting.  He had been given after years of yearning and trusting, and now the One who had given the gift was asking that Isaac be given back.

The text does not recount the angst and suffering Abraham must have felt when he heard this somber command.  We do not know, but we can speculate.  Even so, Genesis 22:3 tells us that early the next morning Abraham began the journey up the mountain.  He didn’t procrastinate.  He obeyed in trust.  Not knowing what God would do, he trusted.  Even when Isaac asked him where the lamb was, Abraham trusted.

At the summit of the mountain, Abraham made an altar, placed the wood on it, tied up his precious son, and laid him in place.  Just as he was about to perform the final act of obedience, God stopped him.  One writer said that, had Abraham not known God as intimately as he did, he would have said the voice he heard was that of Satan.  But Abraham knew and stopped.  He had passed the test, and GOD PROVIDED the lamb.

I heard of a family that quarreled and allowed their differences to divide them.  When the matriarch of the family died, one of the sons wanted to erect a headstone, but the others aligned themselves against him.  He grieved at the lack of unity and respect until he spoke with his parish priest.  The wise man prayed with him, asking him to give his pain and expectations to the Lord.  The priest counseled him to abandon his desire to place the headstone on his mother’s grave and to instead honor his mother by affecting reconciliation within the family.  He surmised that that would be a greater memorial than a headstone.  At peace, the son obeyed and succeeded.

Even when we set out to do God’s will, there may be unknown factors that change our plans.  Abraham trusted God when he set out to climb the mountain; the grieving son trusted God when he abandoned his plans.  In both instances, God was faithful and was glorified.  Can we trust him to do the same with our changed plans?


Loving Father, we are so often certain that we are following you whole-heartedly when there comes an obstacle to our obedience.  Help us to trust you even when we do not understand.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Please pray as I accompany a team today on a mission to another country.  I will not be posting on Thursday.  God bless you and thanks.



And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Genesis 2:9


Do you ever wonder what you would have done if you’d been Adam, enjoying the beautiful Garden, dominating animals and creation, having a soul-mate for a companion, and living with just one rule?  All of this in the context of daily fellowship with his God and Creator…

Just one rule.  Eat all the fruit from the trees that are pleasant to the sight and good for food, but don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Life was good in Eden; there was total freedom; and there was no sin.  It would be the only time in human history where we lived in a perfect environment.  With just one rule.

And then the snake appeared.  It deceived Eve, but Adam succumbed, apparently, with no resistance at all.  Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit, handed it to Adam, and he ate.  Immediately, they felt the need to hide – their bodies and themselves.  God appeared and asked one of the most acute questions of all time, “Where are you?”  God knew where they were; it was Adam and Eve who were lost.

You know the rest of the story:  the expulsion, the consequences, the lost fellowship.  IF ONLY Adam and Eve had been obedient, as if God were surprised at their rebellion.  But God had a plan all along (Gen. 3:15) to redeem mankind and all creation and to restore that which was lost in the Fall.

Fast forward to Revelation 22:1, 2:  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

At the beginning of time we saw sinless perfection in the Garden of Eden.  Along with the forbidden fruit was the Tree of Life that could have sustained Man forever.  IF ONLY Adam and Eve hadn’t forfeited that relationship with God through their sin…  But God had a plan that culminates in sinless perfection.  And in the eternal Garden, once again, the Tree of Life is offered.

Father, your omniscience is breathtaking.  Your forethought is staggering to the human mind.  Thank you for your redemptive power and your grace that reaches each of us wherever we are.  Thank you that, because of Jesus, we don’t have to live with IF ONLY.  AMEN.



Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.  Matthew 5:17  (TLB)


From time to time I hear people referring to the Old Testament as distasteful or, at best, irrelevant.   They find the God (whom Jesus identifies as Father) as hateful and harsh.  Never mind that his people accept his deliverance, his provisions, and his protection while blatantly establishing other gods and sacrificing their children in the fires in conjunction with serial disobedience.

Yesterday, a conference speaker reminded me that Jesus, who we well know taught us to depend on and to use the Word, was referencing the Old Testament.  Consider, when he was twelve years old, his parents discovered him in the Temple talking with the teachers and asking questions (Luke 2).  It is likely he was discussing passages from the Law or the Prophets in the Old Testament.  That’s all that existed at the time.

When the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted (Luke 4), Jesus was fully armed with knowledge of the Old Testament:  “Man shall not live by bread alone…” (Deuteronomy 8); “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 6); “Worship the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 6).  Furthermore, in Jesus’ first sermon he was read from the book Isaiah (Old Testament prophet, Isaiah 61), and with that he announced his arrival as Messiah, the promised deliverer.

In other sermons, Jesus quotes from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Hosea, and many others, 24 Old Testament books, to be precise.  Jesus said that he didn’t come to do away with the Law but rather to fulfill it.  We may think that the Law of the Old Covenant was much stricter than Jesus’ directives until we reflect on Jeremiah 31:33, which says, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”  The writer to the Hebrews says the exact same thing, indicating that the advent of Jesus with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit enables us to actually do the Law that those under the Old Covenant could never do.

Jesus goes on to reveal that with his Law in the hearts of believers, we would live out the impossible standards given in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) because we would have a desire to keep the Law and to please him.  Jesus’ life and ministry was all about building on the foundations of Moses and the Prophets; demonstrating that no one was capable of true righteousness without God’s empowerment; and then announcing the Good News that with Christ in us, we, too, can actually fulfill the Law.

Don’t write off the Old Testament.  READ IT.


Father, thank you for the Old and the New Covenants that reveal the full nature of your love and plan for us, your Church.  Help us to diligently study your Word and to embrace your Son, the Living Word.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



We love him because he first loved us.  I John 4:19


Joseph lives in another country and is a convert from another religion to Christianity.  His story is most instructive.

Joseph was a well-known religious leader who was skilled in debate and an articulate speaker.  One day two Christians appeared at his door.  His sister answered the door, and they told her their business, which baffled her.  She rushed into the salon where Joseph was seated and said, “There are two Christians here, and they want to talk to you.”

Initially, Joseph refused to see them, but on a mischievous whim, he told his sister to show them to the salon.  He knew he could cut them to pieces with his words.  Two very shy Christians stepped boldly into the lion’s den, into Joseph’s salon.  After Joseph welcomed them, the two men said, “We just came to tell you that Jesus loves you.”

Joseph was shocked.  Everyone knew who he was, and they knew of his militant faith.  How did these Christians dare to come tell him about Jesus?  Then Joseph began to ask the young men theological questions to which their only answer was, “We don’t know.  We only came to tell you that Jesus loves you.”  Again and again, Joseph barraged them with words.  They could only repeat their original statement, “We came to tell you that Jesus loves you.”  The men finally left, probably feeling completely dejected and total failures.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Joseph couldn’t stop thinking of these low-status, ignorant Christians who dared to come to his door to tell him that Jesus loved him.  He began to wonder, Have I ever talked to anyone about my faith?  The obvious answer was no.  Joseph began a search to discover what it was that gave his visitors confidence and courage to speak about Jesus.

Initially, Joseph’s research led him to non-Christian material that proclaimed the truth of Jesus’ divine Sonship.  And then he was drawn to reading God’s Word.  One day he said, “I am a Christian.”  And from that point on, he consumed the Bible and pursued fellowship in a local Christian church.  Today he is a powerful Christian evangelist.

Just because two young men boldly shared the Christ who had radically changed their own lives…  Two young men who probably left Joseph’s house thinking that they had failed their Lord…  Wondering why they had ever thought they might make a difference in Joseph’s heart…


Father, thank you for the people who spoke your love to us.  Make us bold to share your love and your Good News with those in our world.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28  (KJV)


I know someone who is jokingly referred to as “Pollyanna, the Glad Girl,” a reference to the children’s books about the ever-optimistic Pollyanna.  However, I’m afraid that the Pollyanna of whom I speak sometimes rubs people the wrong way because of her persistent belief that everything really will be good in the end.

When her email was recently hacked, her friends were commiserating about all the problems with repopulating her contacts, changing her password, and explaining to all the callers that yes, she knew she had been hacked, thank you very much.  But after two days of responding to all those concerned, she had talked with friends she not heard from in a while and had even been reconciled in instances of a few cooled relationships.

As she thought about her dubious nickname, Pollyanna strolled down Memory Lane and recalled how she’d longed to return to school but couldn’t after stopping out to parent two children.  Sadly, an unpleasant situation arose that required her to ask a counselor to step in.  At the end of the sessions, the counselor suggested she return to school (as she had been hoping), and Pollyanna wound up being scholarshipped all the way through a master’s degree.

Some time later Pollyanna found herself in hot water again but persisted in believing that “all things work together for good.”  This time she was defendant in a civil suit not of her choosing.  After days in court, reams of paper, and hundreds of questions, Pollyanna walked out vindicated of any wrongdoing.  Not only did the jury wish her well, but the judge came off the bench to introduce himself and shake her hand.  Six years later, she married the judge.

There are so many instances in the Bible where God actually does work all things, even bad ones, for good:  Joseph, David, Job, Paul, Jesus, and others.  In every instance, the focus remains on God, not the circumstance and not the players.  God is the one who is able through his creative power to transform the very thing that might harm us into a vehicle for his blessing.  It’s just a matter of trusting that God means what he says—and not worrying about being called Pollyanna.


Father, if we were to honestly reflect on our past, we would see the many times when you were faithful to yourself and brought good from evil.  That’s just your nature.  Thank you.  AMEN.



Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2  (BSB)


Have you noticed that the thing that most occupies our thoughts is typically the thing that most affects our attitudes and behavior?  For example, focusing on world affairs tends to evoke frustration and a sense of helplessness (if not hopelessness).  Attention to today’s politics can arouse anger; fear of the future can provoke anxiety; while exaggerated concern about our health can create hypochondria.  Proverbs 23:7 confirms that we are what we think in our hearts.

Paul wrote to the church at Philippi (4:8) to think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable… Essentially, we need to take control of what we entertain in our heads (and hearts).  We are to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (II Corinthians 10:5). 

We CAN discipline our thoughts and our thinking patterns.  …we have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16) and can expect the Holy Spirit to empower us to keep our eyes on Jesus rather than on things that rob us of what he would do in and through us.

So here’s the simple cure for anxiety, for (unrighteous) anger, for negativity, for worry or fear:  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.  Abiding in him, thanking and praising him, and focusing on him brings peace and joy.  In fact, in [his] presence is fulness of joy; at [his] right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).

The hard part is consistently practicing this simple cure.  But we have the Holy Spirit in us to strengthen us to do what pleases the Father.  Now, let’s get started.


Heavenly Father, it’s tiring and counter-productive to think negatively.  It’s depressing to become preoccupied with self.  Train us to keep our eyes on Jesus.  Thank you.  AMEN.



But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  James 1:5


My grandmother was critically ill in the hospital.  Mother’s two brothers had entrusted her with decision-making for their mother, and they had all agreed that there would be no life-support systems used at the end.  Day after day Grandma clung to life with Mother faithfully attending her.

Then came the day the doctor approached Mother with a suggestion.  He deemed that a blood transfusion would make Grandma more comfortable, and he strongly advocated for the treatment.  Exactly the quandary our mother feared.  Her brothers had given her their trust, and now she had to make an awful choice:  Should she allow the transfusion that might prolong Grandma’s life while violating his brothers’ wishes or should she tell the doctor “no”?  Would the brothers consider a transfusion “life-support”?

In her simple, straightforward faith, Mother reasoned with the Lord.  I don’t know the right decision.  I don’t want to go against my brothers, and I don’t want Mother to suffer.  Father, I will go with the doctor’s suggestion and ask that you be sovereign and overrule it if it’s not for the best.  The medical staff proceeded with the transfusion, and my Grandma passed away shortly afterward.  And my mother was at peace.

Was this God’s wisdom?  Did God take a hard thing and resolve the dilemma?  I’m sure Mother played out all scenarios and felt herself to be in a no-win situation, but she followed the direction of her heart and ended in a place of peace that satisfied everyone.

When we ask for wisdom in a difficult situation, do we sometimes fail to hear God’s voice because we expect something complex and profound?  Think of Jesus’ resolutions throughout his ministry:  No food?  Use what you’ve got and feed thousands.  You touched me even though the doctors didn’t help for years?  Be healed.   No tax money?  Go fishing.  You’re blind?  Let me put mud in your eyes.  And so on…

God is able to give us exactly what we need for every circumstance.  We just have to learn to be simple and to expect him, to believe him to give us wisdom, and then to thank him for his gift.


Father, you are God, and we are not.  We need you every moment of every day.  Help us to be like little children and to trust you to guide us to make good decisions.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.